Which flash drive is best?

File management is more accessible than ever today, and flash drives remain one of the most common tools for transferring files. However, there are more factors to flash drives than most buyers realize. Choosing one that suits your needs can significantly impact how quickly you can move files from one device to the next.

The SanDisk Extreme Pro 256-Gigabyte Flash Drive works well for moving data around, even if you’re a professional who has robust storage needs.

What to know before you buy a flash drive

Use

How you plan to use your flash drive will determine which one works best for you. For example, some may need flash drives with fast file transfer speeds. Others may only need a flash drive with ample storage options.

Flash drive types

You can find flash drives that have different types of ports.

  • USB-A: USB-A is the most common port type in flash drives. 
  • USB-C: USB-C is another common port, sporting a smaller design and faster file transfer speeds than USB-A ports. USB-C is commonly used on Apple and Google laptops, among other devices.
  • Lightning: You can use Apple’s Lightning cables to charge and transfer files to and from iPhones. You can also find these connections on flash drives, though they’re less common than USB-A or USB-C ports.
  • Micro USB: While it’s extremely uncommon, you can also find flash drives with Micro USB ports.

USB flash drive speeds

USB flash drives offer various file transfer speeds, depending on their drive limitations and what version of USB it uses. There are two versions of USB file transferring that are commonly used today.

  • USB 2.0: This is an older version of the technology, though it’s still commonly used today. At this level, flash drives can transfer files at speeds up to 60 megabytes per second. Still, most USB 2.0 drives only offer around 30MBps to 40MBps.
  • USB 3.0: This offers faster file transfers, ranging up to 640MBps possible. Most drives with USB 3.0 feature a maximum speed of 150MBps or 200MBps. This USB version is also backward-compatible, meaning it works with older USB 2.0 devices.

However, no matter what USB version a flash drive uses, the hardware may also max out at slower speeds than the version offers.

What to look for in a quality flash drive

Storage

Most shoppers choose a flash drive based on how much storage it has. Flash drives range in space from 4GB to 256GB. You can find flash drives with as little as 2GB of storage with older models sometimes offering even less. On the high end of the spectrum, you’ll find flash drives offering as much as 1 terabyte.

Durable

It’s also vital that a flash drive is physically durable to prevent breaking. While low-end flash drives may use cheap plastic enclosures for the drive’s port, you can also find some with metal or hard plastic casings for added durability. In addition, many flash drives include a retractable port, which can help protect it when not in use.

Portable

Part of the benefit of flash drives is their portability. Although flash drives use the same technology as solid-state drives, they’re much smaller and make excellent solutions for portable file management.

How much you can expect to spend on a flash drive

Cheap flash drives can cost as low as $6. For flash drives with more storage or faster file transfer speeds, you can expect to spend $20-$100 or more.

Flash drive FAQ

Can flash drives increase random access memory on a computer?

A. You can use flash drives to increase random access memory on Windows computers. To use a flash drive as RAM, you’ll need to run ReadyBoost from the computer’s Properties menu with the device plugged in. Most computers also have a maximum amount of RAM possible — usually tapping out around 4GB — so it’s important to check how much storage your system can use.

Do flash drives need to be formatted?

A. Like other storage devices, flash drives need to be formatted. In most cases, flash drives come pre-formatted. The two most common formats are FAT32, commonly used for Mac OS, and NTFS, typically used for Windows. If you have a Mac computer and your flash drive doesn’t work with it, you may need to reformat the drive as a FAT32.

What’s the best flash drive to buy?

Top flash drive

SanDisk Extreme Pro 256GB Solid State Flash Drive With USB 3.2

SanDisk Extreme Pro 256GB Solid State Flash Drive with USB 3.2

What you need to know: This is an excellent solution for transferring files. It has swift data transfers, a durable design and plenty of storage for most users.

What you’ll love: It’s faster than most flash drives, boasting a reading speed of 420MBps and a writing speed of 380MBps. It also includes 256GB of storage and a durable aluminum case with a slide-out USB connection. 

What you should consider: Some buyers said this drive’s enclosure was too thick.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top flash drive for the money

Kingston Digital 64GB Data Traveler Micro Duo Flash Drive With USB-C And USB-A 3.13

Kingston Digital 64GB Data Traveler Micro Duo Flash Drive with USB-C and USB-A 3.13

What you need to know: This affordable and functional double-sided flash drive offers USB-C and USB-A connections. It also has base-level storage.

What you’ll love: It features read speeds up to 100MBps. It’s small and portable, despite featuring 64GB of storage. In addition to the 64GB configuration, this can be purchased in storage volumes ranging from 16GB to 128GB.

What you should consider: It only writes data at speeds up to 15MBps.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

PNY 256GB Pro Elite 400MB-s Flash Drive With USB 3.0

PNY 256GB Pro Elite 400MB/s Flash Drive with USB 3.0

What you need to know: If you need a fast, portable thumb drive with a sturdy casing, this one is a great option. And it has a cutout for attaching it to a keychain.

What you’ll love: It comes with 256GB and transfers files at speeds up to 400MBps reading and 180MBps writing. The USB-A port retracts from the external casing. You can also buy this flash drive with 128GB, 512GB or 1TB of storage.

What you should consider: This drive may write slower than advertised. It also doesn’t include an operation indicator light.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Peter McGuthrie writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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